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Land of my Birth Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Mwangi Munyua, Kenya Jul 19, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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Land of my Birth Perhaps I wouldn't claim to be an expert or much informed on refugees and refugee issues but what I have may be enriching to the debate on Refugees. I'm 19 and writing from Kitale, Kenya.

Although I don't really consider myself one, I could be classified as an internally displaced person. I was born in Uasin Gishu, District of Rift Valley Province, in Kenya. This happens to be a region predominantly inhabited by the Kalenjins, the fourth largest tribe in the country. Prior to the first multi-party elections to be held in the country in the year 1992,these communities (the Kalenjin consists of many sub-tribes) lived in peaceful co-existence with other tribes such as the Kikuyu, to which I belong, the Luo, Luhya and others. The Kikuyus are traditionally farmers and since independence, have gradually bought land in various parts of the country where they practice their farming. That is how my parents came to acquire land here, alongside many others. Basically where we lived consisted of two farming estates, Nyawira and Kiluka. These accommodated over 100 families who practiced both commercial and subsistence farming in addition to pursuing their careers such as nursing, teaching, and medicine, as well as trading activities.

Life was generally good. We lived in relative peace and calm with our neighbours. We were small children then, and had come to know our Kalenjin friends whom we interacted with, both at school and at home, as brothers. We were brought up by Kalenjin house girls as both my parents were teachers. We adored their culture and enjoyed the many cultural events they held, such as their intricate initiation ceremonies. In my class there were only two Kikuyus, the rest being Kalenjin, but you could not even tell the difference as we were so close and the language difference had, in time, been surpassed, so we could speak basic things in their language and vice-versa. They had grown to be our brothers. During weekends we would go herding the cattle together. While there, we would play different games and hunt. This we had come to learn through our association with our Kalenjin brothers, who were experts.

During the various seasons in the farming calendar such as ploughing, weeding, and harvesting, our farms would be filled with young Kalenjins who provided most of the labour. They were impressed with the way we grew our crops and would enjoy our food, mostly traditional foods such as githeri and irio which basically comprised of maize, beans, and potatoes mashed into a fine mixture. We would play games and in the evening they would receive their pay and go home to prepare for the next day. Our lives had been interwoven with a thread of mutual trust, love and respect for each other, cemented by intermarriage between members of the two communities, which bound us together.

All this came to an abrupt end towards the end of the year 1992.

The wind of change was blowing across Africa and many governments were under pressure to do away with the single party system and embrace multi-party democracy. In Kenya this was particularly being advocated for by the Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu who felt that they had for long been marginalized from the government. The then president was from the Kalenjin tribe. We were children then and could not understand much of what was happening.

In time, the government had agreed to allow multi-party democracy and many parties were registered, most of them led by the Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu. The campaigns for the country's first multi-party elections had began in earnest and the excitement of going to the polls to elect a president from among many could be felt in every village across the country. But this would also turn out to be a time of great anguish to many families due to loss of life and property that accompanied the agitation for the changes.

For some families the pain would be even greater. This is the agony of losing not just family members but also land, livestock and all that one had worked so much for in life. It's the pain of losing it all that drove many to even commit suicide.

Tension had been building up. There was talk that something bad was about to happen. No one knew exactly what, but it could be felt. The friendship that used to exist between us and our friends and neighbours of many years was slowly getting strained. The children we used to talk and play with could no longer come near us. Why? They had been warned that we were bad people, that we were opposition sympathizers, that our leaders were planning to bring down the government, that we would take their land. In other words, we were enemies and were to be avoided like the serpent. We could not comprehend it all. We could not understand the anger and hostility that was being directed at us. We were too young to understand. Marriages between the two communities were breaking up, the Kalenjin women were going back to their parents, and their men were sending our women back home. House girls and other domestic staff were leaving their jobs and going home. There was a sense of fear, panic and insecurity among the members of the non-native tribes.

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Its Wonderful
Martin Tairo | Mar 31st, 2005
This writing very well desctibes your motherland, Kenya which also happens to be my motherland too. There is very nice command of English as a language. Why dont you contact me so that you get involved in a project magazine we are doing with some other youths from Africa? Please contact me.

david mbitu | Mar 30th, 2008
Thanks for the article. its really inspiring and we pray that all will be okay in Kenya. We are all suffering because of bad ethnicity and selfish leaders. its sad and painful but we will make it through. Keep the peace banner flying and take a heart and be bless brother.

Re Comments
Mwangi munyua | Apr 14th, 2008
Hey, thanks all for your comments. very much appreciated. Mc

Githinji Kamau | Nov 15th, 2009
Hello, I happen to know you though we may have interacted for only a few sessions while we were in Kiluka and Nyawira farms respectively. I have very nostalgic expereinces of my childhood in Kiluka....growing in that environment shapped my life to a great extent....this made me to visit the area last year in August,!!! In the evening when I went back to Eldoret I felt hollow and desolate.....war is bad and it kills. I remember your mum and late dad, they taught in the same school (Chepkelo). Actually I have been able to know becuase you resemble one of your parents so much!!! I hope you will read this piece if you still visit this site and then we can catch up bilaterally. To give a more hint that I know you...teacher Mwaniki was your neighbour and not far from his homestead was another man called Muturi whose neighbour was the cool and quite man by the name Wanjohi.

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